Tips to better haymaking

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As the weather starts to cool down across the country, it is a timely reminder for haymakers to consider their haymaking essentials. Source: AFDJ eNews

Over the years, haymaking has become a very accurate process combining art and science with the use of mechanical instruments and the right judgement particularly when it comes to timing.

“Changes in technology and improvements in machinery – particularly the introduction of conditioners – has given haymakers more flexibility, but timing is still one of the most crucial factors in making quality dry hay,” Mr Bruno Fetiveau, Managing Director KUHN Farm Machinery said.

“Haymakers not only need to time haymaking to coincide with the right stage of plant growth and weather conditions, they also need to ensure they have time to inspect and service their machinery ready for harvest to avoid any unnecessary delays – delays which can never be made up.”

When making good quality hay, deciding when to start mowing is an important decision. It needs to be done around the most reliable weather forecast and secondly because the ultimate goal of haymaking is to capture the nutrients in grass.

While the maturity of the grass will be the deciding factor for when to start mowing, Mr Fetiveau says it is important to cut earlier in the season when the weather is less likely to be challenging and when the plants are putting most of their energy into vegetative growth so their subsequent nutritional value is at its greatest.

“By cutting earlier in the season using a combination of rear-mounted and front-mounted mower conditioners with oval shaped cutting disc like the KUHN FC 3125 DF and FC 10030 DF, haymakers will be rewarded with an increase in the nutritional value of their hay.”

To preserve this nutritional quality Mr Fetiveau encourages haymakers to only use mower conditioners that incorporate steel finger conditioners and rubber or steel rollers, as well as centralised cutting height adjustment, like the KUHN FC 4060 TCS 4m trailed mower conditioner.

He says, “these mower-conditioners reduce drying time and adapt perfectly to different types of terrain in turn helping preserve the crop’s nutritional quality which promotes high quality forage.”

For some haymakers tedding is the next step in their haymaking process and again timing is crucial.

At its most basic ‘tedding’ is the art of lifting and separating hay to speed up the drying time. This process saves time and provides haymakers with greater flexibility that can result in higher quality forage.

“Depending if the mowed swath is dry on the top, hay mowed in the morning could be tedded that same afternoon,” Mr Fetiveau said.

“Sometimes a second tedding is required to speed up the drying process, but it’s important not to ‘over-ted’ as this can destroy the leaves and lower the quality of the hay.”

Once the hay is almost dry, it’s ready for raking and according to Mr Fetiveau, this is possibly the most critical step in the haymaking process.

“More leaf loss can be caused by improper raking than by any other step in the haymaking process so when haymakers are raking, it’s important to use a rake that can follow ground contours and pick up the whole crop without contaminants and not roll the windrows too tightly.”

There are several different types of rakes available for haymakers, including single-rotor, double rotor central delivery, side delivery and four-rotor hydraulic versions.

When the hay is completely dry and in windrows, it is ready to be baled. Haymakers have a choice between square and round bales when baling. Square bales are generally used to feed in small batches, and are particularly good for storage and handling, while round balers are significantly cheaper and less susceptible to weather.

The last step in the haymaking process is wrapping and although wrapping won’t improve the quality of the forage, it maintains nutritional quality and is said to improve the overall forage digestibility.